The response to my last post from the Monroe Doctrine author (MDA) can be found here. Please take a moment to read it, because I would affirm the assumptions made by MDA in his opening paragraphs. I think that this is a fair series of statements that do well in framing the discussion. Prior to getting to the first hypothetical, I would take a moment to respond to the five points listed.
1. Concerning sacramental rites, while these are not true sacraments in the sense of Baptism and the Eucharist, they warranted preservation in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) as useful rites. Indeed, a church without marriage would just not do at all. But even marriage is not a true sacrament, a view shared by both sides in this debate. While the language to which MDA referred may be confusing, the terminology is no more than a nod to our Romish roots. There are only two sacraments.
2. Concerning Chapter 27.3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, I would refer you to Article 26 of the 39 Articles, remembering that it predates Westminster, and you will see similar language. The issue of Christ in the sacrament is a slippery slope and I would question MDA here on the meaning a “pneumatic presence” that I understand to be the Presbyterian position. Anglicans use of “real presense,” while clearly not meaning transubstantiation, has come to mean something very akin to Lutheran consubstantiation. Nonetheless, my personal view, although admittedly in the minority of all Anglicans, but likely the majority of my Reformed Episcopal Church (REC,) would be more in line with the “pneumatic presence” as I understand it and described before. Here, I must admit to Anglican heterogeneity while defining my position within the most Reformed branch of the stream.
3. Concerning point 3 and regeneration, this is clearly going to be a lynchpin of our discussion and one in which I will have to be careful to observe stringent definitions during our debate. Much of what will follow later will hinge upon these differences. I do think that MDA has correctly understood what I have suggested as a position consistent with most Anglican theologians on this point.
4. Concerning point 4, there is not much here to discuss, I am charged with underestimating Presbyterian valuation of the Lord’s Supper, and that may be true. But relative to the Anglican position in terms of theology, service order, architecture, frequency and emphasis, any non-catholic (small “c” intended) view of the Eucharist will seem to be a devaluation. So, I will concede the point.
5. Concerning the episcopate, it might be helpful here to draw parallels on the issue of parity. Bishops have been the seat of authority in the church since at least the third century. The Holy Sees of the early Church are mentioned in kind if not specifically by that name in Revelation. It was common to use the term bishop to refer to the seat of authority within that principality. Of course, parity among bishops was an Eastern assumption, one that Rome countermanded leading to the Great Schism in 1054. Anglican history, in addition to issues over theology, is far better known for this issue of parity. While the Archbishop of Canterbury has a place of honor among bishops, it is still a place among equals. There exists within Anglican hierarchy absolute independence of authority between diocese. An Archbishop is an administrative position over a province, but has no greater authority than the other bishops. This is probably similar to a Metropolitan in the Eastern Church. Clergy are ordained to be the local agents of the bishop. As such, they perform the sacraments by authority of their bishop. This is why there is a hierarchical distinction between bishops and priests. Nonetheless, this parity of elders that is so highly valued by the Presbyterians is not unlike the Anglican parity of bishops. Indeed, the idea of parity has been preserved from the early church and is consistent with the Eastern side of the Great Schism.
In order to flesh out this discussion, it would seem best to follow through a number of hypothetical situations and then comment on the theology at work at each step. It will be necessary in this regard to make assumptions, but this is acceptable within the world of hypotheticals. Nonetheless, the viewpoint of man will need to be considered necessarily as a part of this debate, and I will be harping on this issue to some degree. Let us begin with the easiest situation.
Describe the theological sign posts of a covenant child, baptized at infancy (obviously on or after the eighth day,) brought up in the church, who becomes a member in good standing in his church where he lives throughout his life until his death. I’ll go first as both example and a starting point for debate.
This child has communicant parents in the church. What can be said about the parents is that they are certainly covenant members and have the appearance of being among the elect. Covenant membership through baptism is reasonably extended to children of covenant members without much reservation. The Baptismal Covenant set forth in the BCP, assigns responsibility for the proper Christian education of the child, not only to the parents and godparents, but also to the whole congregation present. Whether this plays out in practice is another issue, but the words set forth in the sacrament are clear on this point. Theologically, that child is a covenant member. Through the doctrine of election, there are two possibilities. If the child is elect, the view of baptism becomes similar temporally to Lutheran theology. This is still not the same as the Lutherans, as the moving of the Holy Spirit cannot be known to act in one way or the other for the Anglican, while the Lutheran assumes that the Holy Spirit gives through the sacrament what is promised by the sacrament. Regeneration is in this case simultaneous with the sacrament. This is an important point if the child were to die. We stand in agreement with Lutherans on this issue.
If, instead, the child were not of the elect, by baptism, he is still deserving of all the rights and privileges of covenant membership. He might still be raised in the church and indeed spend his whole life in the church. The difference is regarding the lack of regeneration. Instead, by baptism, he has essentially blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, sealing his fate from the start. In every appearance, he may seem to be elect from the perspective of man, and yet there is a hidden and unknown to man lack of repentance and true faith. He has taken Communion thousands of times and his fate cannot be clearer to God.
Both children go through confirmation classes, essentially a catechism though not called that. Confirmation is the laying on of hands by the bishop conferring upon the individual full standing within the church. This is the transfer of responsibility for one’s own Baptismal vows back to the individual in the case of both children and adults. Adults who are baptized in the church will also go through Confirmation as their Baptismal vows are also jointly held by the congregation at the time of Baptism. This transference by the laying on of hands also confers apostolic succession from the Bishop to his charges, making the person in communion with the one catholic and apostolic church on this earth. However, this is, importantly, not a true sacrament in the Protestant world as it is in the Roman world. As a part of fencing the table, first Communion is usually at this time for Roman Catholics.
In contradistinction, Anglicans hold to the controversial practice of paedocommunion, the giving of communion to children before confirmation. I am calling this controversial, as it was introduced to the Episcopal Church (USA) about 40 years ago, about a decade after the ordination of women. To be fair, I’ll have to ask my current priest or bishop whether this is even done in the REC. Nonetheless, to follow through this process logically, I will start with the adult who is baptized. We invite all baptized Christians to our table. This includes adults before they have received confirmation. The theological position of a child aged 9 who has not been confirmed is similar to the adult who has not been confirmed. Separate classes or instruction are given through Sunday School to children, usually at around first or second grade, for the receiving of communion. This is not akin to confirmation in any way. The elect child receives the benefits of the sacrament, while the non-elect child receives all of the dire consequences of 1 Corinthians 11. But to all appearances, these children would be of the same situation. The adult who is baptized but not yet confirmed is in the same boat. The emphasis here is on the sacrament of Baptism. By inclusion into the visible church, the assumption is made that the person is worthy to receive Communion. We cannot know otherwise from the viewpoint of man.
Rather than introduce a specific sin at this point, I’ll yield the floor to MDA for his response. This will certainly have generated a number of issues to which he will likely want to respond.
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